Paramount's Legal Head Returning to Greenberg Practice

LAW
by Amanda Bronstad

Entertainment attorney Barry Haldeman has been lured back to the high-powered firm of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman Machtinger & Kinsella LLP after five years of running the legal department of Paramount Pictures.

Haldeman, who was executive vice president of legal and business affairs at the Viacom Entertainment Group unit, will re-join Greenberg Glusker on May 6 to work alongside famed entertainment litigator Bert Fields.

"When Bert Fields and the Greenberg people came after me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I thought it's time to go back," Haldeman said.

Fields has taken on a number of high-profile cases against Walt Disney Co., including the recent lawsuit over the royalty rights to the "Winnie the Pooh" characters. He also represents actor Tom Cruise and Dreamworks SKG.

Haldeman represented several actors, writers, producers and directors in his previous 10-year stint at Greenberg Glusker, including Gene Hackman and Sally Field.

At Paramount, Haldeman managed several departments and reported directly to superiors at Viacom. Norman Levine, managing partner at Greenberg Glusker, said Haldeman's experience on the studio side will prove useful in representing talent.

Second-hand settlement

California's hotel industry has reached agreement with consumer groups on a plan to limit the amounts paid out on second-hand smoke-related lawsuits.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is expected to approve the settlement proposal within the next few weeks, said Malcolm Weiss, a partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP in Los Angeles.

Weiss represents the California Hotel & Lodging Association, whose 1,587 members have spent several million dollars settling lawsuits brought under Proposition 65, the state statute that protects consumers from harmful carcinogens.

The suits claim hotels have exposed employees and guests to cancer-causing chemicals present in second-hand smoke.

The proposed settlement would put a cap on the amount hotels must pay for each lawsuit brought. Weiss said the deal would end up costing hotels less, even though it doesn't bar future claims from being brought under Proposition 65.

Under the proposed settlement, a hotel with fewer than 35 rooms would pay $750 per existing or future claim, while larger hotels would pay $1,250, Weiss said. Individual cases being settled to date have cost hotels from $7,000 to $15,000 each, he said.

The settlement requires hotels to post notices of carcinogens on the premises, said Anthony Graham, a partner at Irvine-based Graham & Martin LLP, which represents two consumer advocacy groups that have filed claims under Proposition 65.


Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com.

Key Departure Thins O'Melveny Leasing Department

By AMANDA BRONSTAD, Staff Reporter

The chairwoman of O'Melveny & Myers LLP's national leasing practice group will leave the firm to join Gilchrist & Rutter PC, a boutique real estate practice.

The departure of Pam Westhoff, who headed the last formal practice group within O'Melveny's former real estate department, is the latest following the firm's decision to reorganize that specialty.

"I wanted to practice core real estate law," Westhoff said. "My practice is leasing, acquisitions and telecommunications. I still continue to do that here, but it's definitely not a practice anymore."

She will join Gilchrist April 15 after more than 16 years at O'Melveny.

Over the past year, O'Melveny, the city's largest firm, has folded its real estate practice into its finance department, according to Steve Edwards, co-head of what is now known as the project development and finance group.

Before that, the real estate department had been divided into sub-sets, including leasing, work-outs and construction. Westhoff was the only sub-set head who continued formally running her practice after the restructuring.

Her departure comes only months after O'Melveny's senior real estate partner, Larry Preble, left the firm to join KUD International LLC, a Los Angeles real estate developer.

Edwards called Westhoff's departure disappointing, but said it does not mean O'Melveny has lost its focus on real estate. "The reason we combined the two practice areas is we thought we could better serve clients and take advantage of synergies in the finance area," he said.

Many large firms have been emphasizing securities and corporate work over real estate because they generate higher profits. One reason real estate isn't as profitable as a practice is because it often does not require a team of several partners and associates to handle a project.

"If you're looking at the middle market real estate practices where clients are looking for regular repeat business whether it's leasing, acquisitions or financing those kinds of transactions are not going to command the premium billing rates large firms are demanding," said Paul Rutter, managing partner of Gilchrist & Rutter.

Gilchrist & Rutter, with 19 lawyers, is a boutique founded 19 years ago by four former partners of a Century City law firm once headed by now-real estate developer James Thomas.

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